Thursday, March 15, 2018

Dopey proposition.

Speaking of TWWIAGE field trips, back in January my coworkers and I went on our annual Recon Day.  Two of the three wineries we visited were repeats, Quintessa and Robert Sinskey, both pleasant wine-tasting experiences.  The other winery we visited was Piazza Del Dotto, hmm.
Piazza is the third winery in the Del Dotto family, proprietor Dave Del Dotto made a small fortune in the infomercial business and it was that small fortune that allowed Mr. Del Dotto to pursue his dream of going into the wine business.  And he did, but not without some controversy.
Piazza Del Dotto was originally going to be called Ca' Nani Winery which is Italian, apparently, for 'house of dwarfs' (in reference to an Italian folklore story related to Mr. Infomercial by his grandmother).  Del Dotto's daughter, Desirée, was quoted in a 2013 magazine article about the family's new venture as saying, "We do plan on having some little people working there."  Well, you can imagine how that was received in politically-correct California.  By 2015 the plans for the dwarf-manned winery had been scrapped.
It was interesting to watch the new winery take shape.  I remember that one the first features to be completed was the entranceway on Highway 29, resplendent with dwarf-topped pillars.  Varietal wines had already been released with different short-limbed characters on the labels; jovial, wine-loving characters, but dwarfs just the same.  You just can't make this stuff up.
On our visit to the winery, when I questioned our young host about a vague recollection I had of drinking a Sauvignon blanc with a dwarf-adorned label he totally denied it.  Sore point, perhaps?  I didn't think too much more about it, until I remembered where I had tasted the wine.  A few days later, taking a little detour with Vinodog 2, I called on a neighbour and asked if they had any bottles of Del Dotto Sauvignon blanc left.  "Sure," my neighbour said, "let me get you one."  Titter, titter.
Whilst it is in part true that the Napa Valley is rapidly in danger of becoming a theme park, I, for one, am not ready for it to become Disneyland just yet.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Seguin Moreau.

This morning some of my TWWIAGE coworkers and I took a quick field trip to Seguin Moreau Napa Cooperage (SMNC).  I can't believe that I haven't visited a cooperage before today (Vinomaker has visited both SMNC and Demptos).  SMNC don't normally host tours at their Napa facility, however TWWIAGE purchase quite a few barrels from this particular cooperage, so special dispensation was granted.
Visiting SMNC was absolutely fascinating.  I have read plenty about the forests where the oak is grown and harvested; how the timber is aged, exposed to the elements for at least 2 years; the stages of wine-barrel construction and the whole toasting process.  But all that reading did not prepare me for just how interesting it was to witness the entire smoky, aromatic operation in person.
SMNC can produce about 100 barrels a day.  If the process is done entirely by hand SMNC can only make 30 barrels a day: it takes 7 years of making barrels by hand before one can be considered a master cooper.  Brilliant.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Having a swell time too.

Not to be outdone by the Orange Muscat, bud swell is now proceeding nicely in the Pinot grigio (PG) vines.  I had meant to have a look at the PG vines on Sunday, but I simply run out of daylight (despite the beginning of Daylight Savings Time).  Then yesterday, when I got home from work, it was raining so heavily that, after taking V2 for a quick walk, I wasn't sufficiently interested in bud swell to warrant hanging around in a soggy vineyard.  So today it was: and, lo and behold, I once again have some enthusiastic little PG buddies.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Having a swell time?

I finished pruning, and tying down, Vinoland's Syrah vines this past Sunday and then immediately started pruning the Cabernet Sauvignon vines.  Busy, busy, busy.  Just as I finished pruning for the day today, I had a quick look in the Orange Muscat vines to see if anything was happening.  Sure enough, my little buddies are awakening and the buds are beginning to swell open.  Exciting.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The saddest vineyard in Napa.

There might possibly be a worse tended to vineyard in the Napa Valley than this one, but I doubt it.  Developed in two phases, beginning in the summer of 2015, this vineyard began life as a couple of horse paddocks and continued that way for more than 30 years.  (Horses destroy soil texture through compaction.)  The soil was ripped to a depth of 5 feet with a bulldozer and then planted to Petit Verdot (clone 1058) on 1103 Paulsen rootstock.  And then, nothing; no love, no training, no water.  No water!  To say these vines are a tad physiologically delayed is a bit of an understatement.  So sad.
The property recently changed ownership and the new owners aren't quite sure what they want to do with their new vineyard.  Frankly, this poor vineyard may be beyond resuscitation, it's in such a bad condition.  And I have real doubts that Petit Verdot could ever ripen in chilly Coombsville.  We'll see.

Monday, February 19, 2018


There was a semi-interesting article from The SOMM Journal being circulated around TWWIAGE last week.  Dr. Paulo Lopes, Research and Development Manager at Amorim Cork, recently published the results of research he has been conducting into the merits of cork as a wine bottle closure.  Without going into the nuts and bolts of the process of oxidation, the gist of the article was that cork does not breathe; the only oxygen that diffuses into wine is the air trapped in a cork's nooks and crannies.  In a nutshell, or a screw cap, perhaps, the article asserts that it makes no difference if a wine is stored upright or lying on its side.  Furthermore, the article claims that it is very "liberating" when wine-myths are debunked by science.  Aah, I feel so free now.
Dr. Dick Peterson, an early California-wine industry innovator, has always maintained, well, at least since the early 1960s, that sound corks do not breathe air.  Dr. P even has a great quote about the breathlessness of cork, "Show me a cork that breathes and I'll show you a bottle of vinegar."  I'm a little sceptical of the whole premise, but I'll trust the good doctor on this.
My illustrative photograph is of a sparkling-wine cork that came out of a bottle of Chandon étoile that I popped open last Friday night.  I had assumed that the cork had done its job and had sealed the bottle perfectly, and anaerobically.  (The article states that, "the classic mushroom shape of a sparkling-wine cork is formed by its contact with CO2."  Now that's interesting.)  This particular mushroom-shaped cork had managed to transfer something to the wine though, not air but 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole (TCA).  I reluctantly poured the entire, tainted bottle down the sink.  Hate when that happens.  Still, there is a happy ending.  Celebrating Vinomaker's birthday last night, a day early, I ordered a bottle of étoile at a restaurant and it was delicious.
So what does all this fuss about the oxygen transfer rate (OTR) of cork mean to the average consumer?  In my opinion, not much.  None of the information in the article is going to change anything about my wine buying/storing/drinking habits.  Some people just love to do studies and write definitive articles about their findings.  And it always helps when their findings reinforce the science behind the product they are promoting.  Ta da!
Oh, and Happy Birthday Vinomaker!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Piles of prunings.

I finished pruning and tying down Vinoland's Pinot grigio vines today.  The vines are all seemingly healthy and robust, so there was a lot of wood to prune off.  The pruned wood is now neatly piled, at each end of the rows, awaiting Vinomaker and his chipper.
I'm always filled with a moderate sense of accomplishment when I am finished with one varietal, especially when I've had a relatively straight forward time of it.  And happy that I didn't even get a blister.  Phew!
Now on to the Syrah vines...

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Bee spree.

It was a gorgeous day today, the temperature got all the way up to 71°F.  Loved it!  And it seems that there is no rain in the forecast for, perhaps, the next two weeks - love that.  It means that I should be able to proceed with my pruning uninterrupted by unpleasant weather.  I actually got a little too warm whilst pruning the Pinot grigio today.
The local honey bees are loving the warm spell also.  Vinoland's industrious bees are busy filling their pollen sacs with grains of yellowy-goodness from a multitude of weeds and wildflowers that are blooming now.  Vinoland's rosemary plants are teeming with bees.
A particular, famed groundhog may see his shadow tomorrow in Pennsylvania, presaging six more weeks of winter, but the busy-bees and I will not be too concerned.  I feel I can safely predict that winter in California will not be too protracted this year.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018


It is supposed to be winter, however one would be forgiven for thinking otherwise.  Whilst the vines and the trees of the Napa Valley are leaf-free, wildflowers, cover crops and weeds are thriving: a combination of rain and sunshine will do that.  The weather has been mild and the mustard and I are enjoying it immensely.  Although there is a lot of activity and pruning is well underway valley-wide, including here in Vinoland, this, to me, is the most peaceful and contemplative time of the viticultural-year.  Omphaloskepsis, anyone?

Friday, January 26, 2018

PG snips.

I started pruning Vinoland's Pinot grigio vines today.  After two days of rain it was pretty soggy out in the vineyard, and chilly, so I had to talk myself into getting started.  But once I got started, I was immediately reminded of how much I enjoy pruning; it's just me, the grapevines and my trusty Felco 6s.  Oh, and the little black and white dog that couldn't stop barking at a possum, cat, skunk, or something, hunkered down in a drainage pipe, that was trying to avoid her.  Prune on!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

And so it begins.

Pruning has started in Vinoland.  This afternoon, taking advantage of the sunny, but chilly, dry weather I began to prune Vinoland's Orange muscat vines.  I didn't get very far; failing light, and a mouthy little dog who wanted to go for a walk, curtailed my progress.  But I did get started and that is all that counts.  Roll on vintage 2018.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Pretty Milkmaids all in a row.

I was going to start pruning Vinoland's grapevines today, but it's raining, hmmph!  So, instead, Vinodog 2 and I went for an extra walk, a wet one.  Traipsing up the hill, a steep private road with three homes on it, which runs north from behind Vinoland, I was reminded that last week, whilst doing the same walk, I'd spotted a small white-flowered plant that I'd never seen before.  It goes without saying that I didn't know its name...had to rectify that.  After quite a bit of searching in my modest home-library and on the internet, with no luck, I gave up.
Never fear, I had one last resource at my disposal: Ellen Dean, Curator of the UC Davis Center for Plant Diversity.  I have had the great fortune of being helped in identifying a plant once before by Ms. Dean, so I thought I'd bother her once again in the identification of this weed.  Within 20 minutes I had the identity of my mystery wild flower:
"That isn't a weed!  That is the beautiful milk maids, Cardamine californica - one of our earliest native wildflowers in the mustard family.  How lucky you are to have it!"
I am lucky.  Having such a person as Ellen Dean to bother when I need help identifying the flora that flourishes in my little corner of California makes me very lucky.  I'm also lucky to have a milkmaid now growing in Vinoland - I transplanted one of the pretty little plants.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Party like it's MMXVIII.

Weather, beautiful; Rose Bowl, exciting; Supermoon, impressive; Vinodog 2, festive.  I hope everyone had a very enjoyable and normal first day of the new year.
A happy 2018 to all!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Trois French fizzes!

On this, the seventh day of Christmas, not wanting to bother trying to procur three French hens, and being four days late anyway, I am making do with three bottles of Champagne for my annual New Year's Eve festivities.  As one can see, The Widow is heavily featured.  Go 'ed, Mrs. Cliquot!  I hope a bubbly-filled night is ahead for all.
Have a very Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The net weight of a wet winter.

I spent a little time out in the vineyard today, un-pegging pegs and removing the bird-netting from the Pinot grigio vines.  I probably should have performed this little vineyard operation before now, as soon it will be pruning-time, but I ran the risk of being bonked on the head by an acorn, or two thousand.  Yikes!
I swear, I have never seen so many acorns as I have this autumn/winter.  There are years when the acorns are noticeably more bountiful than other years, but this year the sheer number of acorns has just been insane.  And they haven't stopped falling yet.  They're everywhere, not just in the bird-netting.
No doubt a result of the disastrous amount of rain that California experienced last winter, I'm afraid that if they all germinated and grew into oak trees there wouldn't be much room left for anything else in Vinoland.